We have the utility-scale controls and instrumentation expertise to tackle your greatest PV challenges.
By: Adam Baker
There are so many challenges for PV solar sites, like how requirements vary from project to project, the wide variety of equipment that ends up at sites, and how there aren’t many system integrators who focus on controls and instrumentation specifically for utility-scale solar projects.
Then there's the transition between installation and commissioning, to operations and maintenance of the site after construction.
Few integrators stay behind to use the systems they deploy, which affects their commitment to functional, easy to use deployments.
Fortunately for owners and operators, that’s where Affinity Energy’s solar expertise comes into play.
Affinity Energy’s solar expertise
We’ve consulted, programmed, integrated, and installed at sites as large as 500Mw and as small as one.
Here are some common issues site owners ask us to solve:
I’m worried about solar downtime and energy loss.
When solar downtime occurs, the last thing owners/operators want to be is in the dark. But I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen energy loss onsite and thought: This was totally preventable. If only they had installed (or correctly configured) a controls and monitoring system for their solar site.
For PV downtime issues that are actually preventable, the data collected and analyzed by your controls and monitoring system can help significantly minimize downtime and unnecessary energy loss.
We can craft and build a system that detects or prevents curtailment and detects losses from soiling, blown DC fuses, overheated inverters, and tracker malfunctions.
I’m having onsite communications issues.
Integration of wireless in utility-scale solar is fairly new. Unreliability and insecurity may have been characteristics of wireless connections in the past, but today’s industrial-grade radios have just as much (if not more) security capability and encryption as a wired switch, and their reliability is unparalleled.
If you’re having communications issues, don’t give up! Our field service agents are expert wireless radio troubleshooters. Check out how we helped SunEnergy1 and Duke Energy Renewables set up a wireless communications infrastructure.
I want to make my PV project more grid friendly.
Getting a utility to approve an interconnect agreement can be a pain. Whatever you do, don’t scrap your project after learning your interconnect point is too soft. There is another way to make your project viable again and meet utility requirements in cost effective manner.
Have you ever considered using VARs to correct grid voltage?
My HMI is overcrowded and hard to read.
If you can’t tell what’s going on at your solar plant within seconds of looking at your HMI SCADA screen, it’s got too much data on it. (Here’s how I would design the best possible HMI that gives the minimum data needed to make intelligent decisions about plant operation)
We’d be happy to share the KPIs that actually help operators make informed maintenance decisions. KPIs are, by definition, performance indicators. They’re key to understanding the asset’s operating performance. Here’s a brief on calculating metrics to improve solar performance to get you started.
I need to know if my PV output is representative of the site’s DC/AC design ratio.
The idea of clipping, and lost potential for energy is actually an expected part of every site’s design. However, once in operation, it’s nearly impossible to determine if inverters are clipping when they’re EXPECTED to, and lack of visualization tools to report on DC performance could cost solar plant owners some serious revenue.
Don’t worry, we can help you identify DC health issues and increase shoulder energy.
I’m trying to keep a consistent monitoring system throughout my PV portfolio.
We’re specialists at working around proprietary systems, strategizing for scalability, and designing new systems. Learn what we did to customize data points from a proprietary system for nine Duke Energy solar sites.
I need other instrumentation or communications configured onsite.
No problem! We’re familiar with industry met stations, soiling monitoring stations, reference cells, wireless radios, and fiber termination.
In 2017, Affinity Energy certified in fiber termination with Corning, enabling us to perform single and multi-mode fiber termination services to owners, contractors, and end-users. Because our engineers can troubleshoot from beginning to end with serial, Cat 5, wireless, and now fiber, it reduces the time and cost our customers spend on scheduling additional fiber optic subcontractors.
We’re here to help you manage your solar asset
No matter what challenges you have, or what services you need from us, Affinity Energy’s engineers and field service agents will help you optimize the operation of your solar assets.
Contact us today for a no-obligation consultation.
Adam Baker is Senior Sales Executive at Affinity Energy with responsibility for providing subject matter expertise in utility-scale solar plant controls, instrumentation, and data acquisition. With 23 years of experience in automation and control, Adam’s previous companies include Rockwell Automation (Allen-Bradley), First Solar, DEPCOM Power, and GE Fanuc Automation.
Adam was instrumental in the development and deployment of three of the largest PV solar power plants in the United States, including 550 MW Topaz Solar in California, 290 MW Agua Caliente Solar in Arizona, and 550 MW Desert Sunlight in the Mojave Desert.
After a 6-year stint in controls design and architecture for the PV solar market, Adam joined Affinity Energy in 2016 and returned to sales leadership, where he has spent most of his career. Adam has a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Massachusetts, and has been active in environmental and good food movements for several years.